School board revisits policy on recruitment by outside groups
TOWANDA - Should outside groups be allowed to recruit Towanda School District students by having written information about their organization sent home with students?
The Towanda School District has begun to take another look at its policy on the matter, which bars outside groups from supplying notices to the school district that are to be carried home by the students.
At the most recent meeting of the Towanda School Board, School Board member Brooks Greenland spoke out against the policy, saying it prevents parents from finding out about programs in the community that could benefit their children.
Greenland said she has been approached by several groups, including coaches and parents from those groups, who would like to see notices going home with students, such as an announcement that the Towanda Little League is having sign-ups.
Other groups that would like to have notices sent home with students include the Bradford County Branch YMCA and a local youth soccer group, she said.
"I feel it is very important to get this information home and let the parents decide if (they want their children involved in the groups)," Greenland said. "Otherwise, (parents have) no way of knowing what's going on in the community."
School Board member Susan Portnoff said she was instrumental in setting the current policy. Sending flyers from outside groups home with students "violates the freedom of religion," she said.
Once you allow one group to send information home with students, "you can't discriminate" by barring other groups from doing so, she said.
"I totally agree that it is very sad that this (sending home the information with students) is not happening," School Board member Peggi Munkittrick said at the meeting. "(But) if you allow one group to send home (information) with students, you have to allow every group (to do that)."
Greenland wondered aloud why parents couldn't just throw out the notices about programs that they didn't want their children involved in.
Outside groups are allowed to bring in written information or flyers which are placed in the school office for students to pick up, if they wish to take it. Students are told over the school's intercom system, when announcements are made, that the information is available for them to pick up in the school office.
But the written information cannot be distributed to the students in their classroom for them to take home, Portnoff said.
Greenland criticized the current arrangement, saying that children may not hear the announcement made over the intercom and many young children would not understand the announcement.
Portnoff said there are other ways that parents can find out about activities for their children, such as notices in The Daily Review.
But Greenland said that a lot of parents don't buy the newspaper, or if they do, might not read the section of the paper where the notices are located.
"Kids need these activities," Greenland said. "They do better in school, usually, if they are involved in sports."
The school district's Policy & Curriculum Committee will be reviewing the procedures on disseminating information provided by outside groups at its meeting today to see if there would be a way to better accommodate the needs of outside groups, Superintendent Steven Gobble said. Gobble said that if the school district were to allow additional notifications to take place, newer technology could have a role in making the announcements, such as the district's automated phone notification system or the district's website.
In other business, Standing Stone Township Tax Collector Helen Olewick and Wysox Township Tax Collector Brenda Benjamin have asked the Towanda School District to take over the collection of the school property taxes in those two municipalities.
For the arrangement to go forward, the Towanda School Board would need to approve agreements with Olewick and Benjamin which would make the school district a deputy tax collector in Wysox and Standing Stone townships.
Olewick's and Benjamin's requests come on the heels of a reduction in tax collectors' pay in the Towanda School District.
In January, the Towanda School Board reduced the commission for collecting the school property tax from $3.40 per bill to $1.20 per bill.
The reduction in the commission reflects the fact that tax collectors no longer have to send out the tax bills themselves, school district Business Manager Doreen Secor has said. The company that prints the bills does that job.
Today's meeting of the Policy & Curriculum Committee takes place at 6 p.m. in the conference room of the Towanda Area Elementary School.
The full school board meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the school's conference room.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.